There are three ferries linking the Isle of Mull to the mainland. But by far the best known and most used is the ferry from Oban to Craignure, near Mull's most easterly point. This has been the main route onto Mull for many years, and certainly since the coming of the car ferries in the 1960s. For current timetable and fare information, and for bookings, visit CalMac's website.
The Mull ferry, aptly named the Isle of Mull was built in 1988 in Port Glasgow on the Clyde. She is designed to accommodate up to 80 cars and up to 972 passengers, so providing for the heavy traffic of foot passengers going to Mull to meet coach trips to Iona.
The rather more recent (and continuing) tide of younger pilgrims in search of Balamory mean that booking is always a good idea on this route, especially if you want take a vehicle on board the ferry, and especially if you intend to travel on a Friday or Saturday, the typical self catering "changeover" days on Mull.
The crossing takes just over three-quarters of an hour. Many passengers will simply bag their spot in one of the ship's lounges and pass the journey there. But for those wanting to get the most from the journey, the Isle of Mull is well equipped with promenade decks.
Your attention at the start of any journey to Mull is captured primarily by the wonderful views of Oban, laid out around its natural amphitheatre and topped off by McCaig's Tower, a part-completed folly built in 1897. Meanwhile, to the seaward side the north end of the Isle of Kerrera is passing you by. The height of the ship allows you views over the island to the mountains of Mull in the distance.
The monument atop the north end of Kerrera is in memory of David Hutcheson, who founded many of the steamer services to the isles: and in particular the company that became known by the name of his son-in-law, David MacBrayne. This is now Caledonian MacBrayne, or CalMac. The views on the landward side are dominated by the imposing Dunollie Castle.
Next you pass the marker for the southern tip of the Isle of Lismore: the Eilean Musdile lighthouse. On the opposite side of the ship at this point is the much less obvious Lady's Rock, which is submerged at high tide except for the small light tower that marks it. It is said that Lachlan Cattenach, a Maclean of Duart was unable to produce a male heir and blamed his wife, Catherine, who he had married in about 1520. His solution was to have her "accidentally" stranded on Lady's Rock to await the incoming tide.
Catherine had disappeared by the following morning and Lachlan sadly reported her death to her brother, the Earl of Argyll. When Lachlan subsequently accepted an invitation to a banquet from the Earl of Argyll at his castle at Inveraray he found Catherine sitting next to her brother at the high table. She had been rescued by a passing fisherman. Nothing was said, and Lachlan was allowed to leave unharmed. He was found murdered in Edinburgh on 10 November 1523, apparently stabbed in revenge by another of Catherine's brothers, Sir John Campbell of Cawdor.
The next landmark is much more obvious, it is the home of Lachlan Cattenach Maclean, Duart Castle The view of the castle from the ferry with Mull's mountains behind must be one of the most evocative in Scotland.
Once past Duart Castle you catch a glimpse of the much more sheltered Torosay Castle and its gardens, before approaching Craignure. For motorists, the rest of your journey is likely to comprise views of the inside of the Isle of Mull's car deck as you wait for docking to be completed and the vehicle door to open.